With unprecedented access, Cartel Land is a harrowing look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the murderous Mexican drug cartels.


Filmmakers: Matthew Heineman
Year: 2015
Runtime: 98 mins
Country: USA/Mexico
Format: HD
UK release: 4 September 2015


With unprecedented access, CARTEL LAND is a harrowing look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the murderous Mexican drug cartels.

In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as “El Doctor,” leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Meanwhile, in Arizona’s Altar Valley – a narrow, 52-mile-long desert corridor known as Cocaine Alley – Tim “Nailer” Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across our border.

Filmmaker Matthew Heineman embeds himself in the heart of darkness as Nailer, El Doctor, and the cartel each vie to bring their own brand of justice to a society where institutions have failed. CARTEL LAND is a chilling meditation on the breakdown of order and the blurry line between good and evil.


Matthew Heineman is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker based in New York. He directed and produced ESCAPE FIRE: THE FIGHT TO RESCUE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE, which premiered at Sundance 2012. After winning numerous festival awards, the film was theatrically released to critical acclaim by Roadside Attractions / Lionsgate before airing on CNN and earning an Emmy nomination.

Heineman previously collaborated for two years with a team at HBO on the groundbreaking, Emmy-nominated HBO series, The Alzheimer's Project, which aired in May 2009. He also directed and produced Our Time – a feature-length documentary about what it's like to be young in today's America. Heineman has directed several short films and commercials and is currently developing a few different projects.


Director: Matthew Heineman

Producer: Tom Yellin

Co-producer: Myles Estey

Executive Producers: Molly Thompson, David McKillop and Robert Debitetto

Editors: Matthew Hamachek, Matthew Heineman, Bradley J. Ross and Pax Wadderman

Music: H. Scott Salinas and Jackson Greenberg

Cinematography: Matthew Heineman and Matt Porwoll


Nominated - Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature

Nominated - BAFTA for Best documentary feature

Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking 2016

Emmy Award for Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program

Emmy Award for Oustanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction Program

Sundance Film Festival Directing Award U.S. Documentary 2015

Sundance Film Festival U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography 2015

Best Documentary - Moscow International Film Festival 2015

Tim Hetherington Award - Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015


Sundance Film Festival 2015 - World premiere

Moscow International Film Festival 2015

Sheffield Doc/Fest 2015

IDFA 2015